Ordinary but Remarkable

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., my husband and I visited monuments to some extraordinary people–some who founded this country, others who led us through tough times. We remember and honor one such person today–Martin Luther King. Thinking of these people leads me to also to think of the millions of extraordinary people who go unrecognized.

In 2016 I had a surprise encounter in a cemetery with a couple of long-dead uncles (long story, another post) that inspired me to finally begin work on a family history that is now in the works. As I learn more about each family member it strikes me that these ordinary people let truly remarkable lives.

Two such ordinary men were Charley and Johei.

Charley was born shortly after the civil war. He met and married Minnie in Texas where they began their lives together. Around 1910, Charley moved his growing  family to the Sacramento area where he worked as a laborer, helping build a bridge over the Sacramento River.

While Charley was building a bridge in California, Johei was working as a farm hand on Vashon Island, Washington, having come from Japan via Hawaii. He eventually made his way to the mainland Seattle area. Johei married his picture bride, Hatsuma, and they raised their family near Seattle. By then, Johei had begun farming on his own. He worked land owned by others, because the law prevented Japanese immigrants from purchasing their own land. Johei improved the land, installing a sprinkler irrigation system to extend his growing season. He was the only Japanese farmer in western Washington to do so.

Both Charley and Johei and their families lived through the years of World War I and endured the Great Depression. Charley did not live to see World War II; Johei and his family had their lives ripped away from them when Executive Order 9066 caused them to be sent to concentration camps for the duration of the war.

And so it goes.

The U.S. has been built by millions of Charleys and Joheis. They have farmed the lands, built the bridges and skyscrapers, educated the children, defended us and saved the world from tyrants. Billionaires and moguls owe their success to these ordinary people, without whom they could not have built their financial empires.

Lately those billionaires and moguls, including the President, have come to believe they are entitled to more. They prey upon the poor. They ravage sacred lands to add to their bank accounts. They take away from the ordinary but remarkable people who have built this country in order to enrich themselves. Congress enables them.

It is time for those of us who are able to speak out against this trend. It is time to elect officials who will work for the ordinary people they are elected and sworn to represent. It is time for all of us to become involved at the voting booth. It is time to honor the millions of remarkable, ordinary men and women who built this country.

 

Minnie and Clarence RussellCharlie and Minnie

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